Friday, January 4, 2008

Be A Man: Anger

Some of the most difficult aspects of manhood deals with our inner drives, our passions, and emotions. In much of the Western World there has been an attempt to make manhood something distant from the emotional realities that many men live. That is a man’s strength being his ability to distance himself from all his emotions, save one, and that is anger.

The Bright Side

Anger is a force that can be found in both males and females, but for some reason as males we are taught to feed off of our anger in order to gain some level of success in the world. There is no intrinsic problem with anger. It is a natural element of not only the human experience, but also that of the animal world. It is through anger that change comes as well as the urge to survive.

Even when one looks at anger in a Jewish religious sense, one finds that anger is an understandable element of the Judaic biblical perspective. Though some of our sages tell us that The Creator does not have emotions in the same way as humans, we do learn that the only way to describe The Creator is through human emotional terminology. The Hebrew Bible is clear that there are times when The Creator has displeasure with human immoral actions or lack of moral fiber is with the word heat or wrath a euphemism for anger.

Thus anger is justifiable in many situations, without need of second considerations. If a child is murdered society should be angry. If a woman is abused, society should be angry. If a man’s life is taken without rhyme or reason society should be angry. Thus there are justified situations for anger, as long as action follows.

Batman Begins - Training, The Will To Act

The Dark Side

Yet, with every emotion there is always a need for control and proper moral judgment. Anger, though a positive force can destroy a man when it is not coupled with control. Men who have not learned to be the master of their emotions, in some situations, can pose a threat to the society they live in as well as to themselves. They can become bitter with time to the point that no one wants to be in their presence, or people from whom they seek love fear them.

How many men fall by the wayside due to anger that becomes blind rage? How many men end up alone and destitute because they choose to act out with their anger? How many men miss out on extraordinary opportunities for advancement in their personal lives because they have a problem with managing their anger?

Effective Anger Management

Effective anger management can then be defined as the ability to monitor this emotion with balance and understanding. Understanding one’s personal motives and understanding the consequences of one’s emotional state is key in proper anger management. This does not mean that a person simply controls their anger to the point of never displaying it. As mentioned before anger is an important tool in human development. Yet, a person with proper anger management considers the following.

  1. What things make me angry?
  2. Am I am angry at a person or a situation?
  3. Am I really angry at an outside situation or is my anger because of my own inadequacies?
  4. What affects does my anger have upon society and myself?
  5. In this situation should I control my anger or unleash it?

Having the proper perspective can help a man understand if he is entering into a conflict for the right reasons or not. When you see injustice, become angry and act on that anger. When you see despair be angry and act on that emotion. When you see apathy, become angry, and position yourself as a role model for society. In some cases it can also mean life or death. So now we have to ask ourselves are we men or are we illogical beasts of the earth?


Shelly said...

Hi Ehav,

I really like some of the points you raised in this post. I think it is very prevalent that men are often conditioned into having a very limited emotional vocabulary... It's a shame because it can lead to stress, misunderstanding and the propogation of negative patterns within relationships and parenting later in life.

I know that the culture I grew up in (West Indian) has this to a great extent. The only emotions I ever really saw from my dad especially were humour and anger. That's it. Don't get me wrong; he was/is a very loving and wonderful man but he really struggles with emotional displays outiside of these two things.

I guess all we can do is take the awareness we are developing as men AND women and educate the next generation differently...

lisa said...

Recently, I was researching gender specific learning styles. In my research, I found that 'typical' male students learn best in confrontational and competitive environments.

Then, when that confrontational and competitiveness grows up. . . it becomes the co-workers husband, who can't keep a job because of his temper - and 'the supervisor" is not going to take his manhood!!

I think you are right to assert that there is nothing wrong with "righteous anger" - it is when that anger is displaced that the results become disastrous.

Ehav Ever said...

Shelly -You are correct that we men are often conditioned in a certain limited vocabulary. I also agree with you that the only way to break the cycle is to raise up a new generation with a more expansive vocabulary.

Lisa -I can definitely vouch for what you wrote. The competitive edge was something that I saw in the males I grew up with. I saw this a LOT when I went to predominately Euro-American schools. For some reason it seemed to me that Euro-American boys had more to try to prove. There are times where I wished I had been taught to be a bit more confrontational in these environments. What I did learn was to mask my weaknesses by at times making myself appear weak. I learned that sometimes outright power is not the answer to survival, but sometimes subterfuge was more effective. I used this tool when I worked and when I interacted.

Anonymous said...

I think that you’d find that rage and violence among women has risen, especially in the United States. Certainly the incarceration rate has risen. That may be because women are encouraged to “let it out” now. But it is also a result of backlash. Some men don’t want to see their women to become independent.

I am really fond of the saying in Pike Avot that points out that the same evil urge that leads to sin is the urge to leads a man to build a house, marry, or start a business.

The same rage that causes one man to kill causes another to lead a protest rally. As you point out, it is managing anger that is important. In an age in which physical strength is no real impediment to murder, that is important for men and women.

As always, I enjoy reading your explorations.

Mes Deux Cents said...

Hi Ehav,

"but also that of the animal world"

Do animals really get angry or do we project our own emotions on to animals?

As far as I know animals only act out of instincts that help them survive.

When a lion growls it's because it feels threatened. When a dog barks it's the same, unless of course humans have intervened and trained the dog to fight. Even then the dog isn't angry, just trying to survive.

What do you think?

Ehav Ever said...

Makeda42 -Interesting perspective. Yes, I think that many of our emotions have the same basis in other actions, it is simply a matter of how we direct them.

MDC -I would like to think that emotion and instinct are connected since both are hard wired. Humans for example are not immune to emotion and we can't turn them off either. We may simply master our actions in relations to our emotional state, but we can't turn off having them.

I believe that instincts are the same. I believe that animals can be happy, just as I believe they can be sad. I remember once a friend of mine had a dog. She once said to the dog, We are going out, do you want to go with us? The dog immediately started jumping up and down in what looked like excitement. Then my friend said to the dog, oh I'm sorry your not going. The dog immediately stopped jumping around and had a sad look on its face.

I have also seen dogs protect their owners when they perceive danger. I would like to believe that this is anger, since there is no natural instinct for a dog to protect a human. The man's best friend thing has been conditioned into them.

Lions for example growl for a number of reasons. There was a program on Discovery several months ago where they analyzed what exactly happens when a lion growls. They found that in certain valleys the sound resonates for miles, and almost gives off a sort of emotional state to other lions. Lions miles away know to either avoid that lion, or that they can challenge it in some scenarios. Yet, they found that the growls meant different things.

I found a few articles on animal emotions here and here.